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Can Teams Find Love On Valentine's Day?

That big red day on our calendars has arrived. For some of us, the night will be filled with various distractions to keep our minds from the inescable fact that we are alone in the world. For those of us who are attached, the day can serve as a payment in advance to our spouse, in exchange for the inescable time vacuum to come the moment pitchers and catchers report.

But while we are forced by television show theme episodes and huge pharmacy candy displays to consider the health of our romatic lives, baseball teams have proven to be a surprisingly unsentimental lot. Few transactions occur on February 14th each season- teams have made the incredible decision to sign or trade for players based on need, instead of sprinkling roses across the infield grass to let prospective free agents know that they are, indeed, The One.

For those teams that did in recent years: were they able to find love? Let's take a look.

Last Valentine's Day, not a single transaction occurred. But back in 2009, the Mets signed Livan Hernandez, clearly choosing a partner they knew would stick by them, through good innings and bad. For a while, it appeared a love connection had formed. Hernandez won the fifth-starter spot that spring, and posted a respectable 4.04 ERA through June 28th. But things fell apart quickly after that, with Hernandez putting up an 8.71 ERA in his next eight starts. The Mets told Hernandez they wanted to see other starters, and Livan headed south to the Nationals, where he found a new home. He even came back to face the Mets in April of 2010, pitching seven shutout innings against his former flame. Awkward!

The Mets were also involved with two of the four Valentine's Day signings in 2008: reliever Ricardo Rincon and outfielder Ben Johnson. The team proceeded to stand Johnson up, keeping him in the minors, while Rincon turned out to be a four-inning September fling. 2008's other two Valentine's Day signings, Kent Mercker to the Reds and David Newhan to the Astros, met with some limited success. But King Edward VIII and Wallis Simpson it wasn't.

To find a couple that outperformed the critics, you'd have to go back to 2007, when the Red Sox gave J.D. Drew a five year, $70MM contract on Valentine's Day. (Matchmaker Scott Boras brought them together, though it is unclear if he used the phrase "Kismet!") While some thought it wouldn't last, the Red Sox are entering the final season of Drew's contract, and have to be pretty satisfied with the results so far. Drew has given them an OPS+ of 120 over four seasons and 2,093 plate appearances - a solid record of both performance and durability. Here's hoping Theo Epstein sends Drew flowers today.

But it would be downright coldhearted to overlook the other connection that day in 2007, between the Washington Nationals and Dmitri "More to Love" Young. Brought in merely to compete for the first base job, Young seized it and never looked back, hitting .340 by the All-Star break to earn a selection, and finishing up with a season line of .320/.378/.491. Smitten, the Nationals signed him to a two-year, $10MM contract extension. However, the affair turned as one-sided as the coupling between Lisa Simpson and Ralph Wiggum, with Young playing in just 50 games in 2008 and none in 2009.

Still, who are we to judge this brief flame in our nation's capital? So whatever your intentions, may all of your Valentine's Days be as successful as Dmitri Young's 2007.

 

 


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